Wretched Hive of Scum & Villainy
Porto Liure has a reputation as a lawless, anarchic place. That’s not entirely true. One of the conceits for its very existance; a necessary caveat for Terrasa accepting its bid as an independent city-state in the first place, is the establishment and enforcement of a rule of law in Porto Liure. Agreeing to do so was old Jacobo Bernat’s key compromise in his bid to establish himself as the newly minted Lord of Porto Liure at the end of the Pirate Wars 150 years ago. How seriously that endeavor has been taken over the years has, of course, waxed and waned. At its most stringent, the streets were nearly as clean as in any Terrasan city, and at its most lax, the Lord of Porto Liure was little more than among the most prominent gangster warlords in the city, with the City Watch as his personal enforcers. Naturally, most of the time, it’s somewhere in between.
But even at its most strident, the streets of Porto Liure have never really been clean. It’s just not in the nature of Liurans to roll over and accept too much authority, and the result of that is that organized crime is one of the most enduring and notable features of the city.
Currently, the following are among the most prominent elements of organized crime in the city.
- The Cherskii Mafia. Headquartered “overseas”, this mafia was formed and remains run to this day by bosses amongst the hamazin. Originally meant as a method to raise money and resources for a resurgent “glorious revolution” and revitalization of Baal Hamazi itself, as the years have passed, the patriotic zeal has proven fleeting. Most likely, the organized crime business is simply more profitable. Although nominally run by hamazin hellkin, in reality, they tend to be distant and rarely seen authority figures. Much of the actual muscle of these gangs are made up of shaggy urban changelings and local humans. They deal in the usual vices—prostitution (not strictly illegal in Porto Liure, although discouraged in some locales), smuggling, drugs, protection rackets, bribery of officials, and the occasional contract killing.
- The Union of the Snake. A small group in Porto Liure, this is actually a Sarabascan outfit that specializes in assassination and poisonings. Because their reputation is so good, the business is incredibly lucrative, and they can charge so much, the Union has surprising clout given their small numbers. They are much more specialized than most, however.
- The Castiada Crime Family. A local Terrasan family business, which has grown over the years to be a major player in the city. Ruled by the “Old Gray Lady”, it’s not entirely clear who this person is. It’s not entirely clear that it is in fact a single person, or even a person at all. Commonly, it’s believed that the Old Gray Lady is a leader in disguise, and the actual running of the family is confined to a small group or triumvirate who take turns donning the Old Gray Lady’s robes when the occasion demands. Some have made wilder claims; that the Old Gray Lady is the ghost of an ancient Castiada matron who still rules the family from beyond the grave being one popular tavern story, but if anyone knows the truth, they’re not saying. In addition to playing in the usual vices, the Castiadas have made a concerted effort in the past to corral all the cat-burglars and pick-pockets in the city under their umbrella. They haven’t been completely successful, but they’ve managed to take a cut from a fair amount of them, and freelance operatives better learn to take very small, discrete steps around town or risk their brutal wrath.
- The Fuzeta da Ponte family. Another local gang, but one with tendrils extending throughout the western Mezzovian region. Old Man Heitor, the capo emeritus of the family, spent many of his younger years at sea as a pirate, and only retired to take over the organized crime business from his father when the sea lanes got too hot for him. He’s now stepped aside for his own son, Leonardo, who plied the seas with a little more legitimacy, sailing with a letter of marque issued by the Lord of Porto Liure himself. Fantastically connected, both locally with the nobility, abroad with various important VIPs throughout the region, and with a number of old pirates and smugglers on the waters as well, the Fuzeta da Ponte family might be the most potent player in the city, although their strength is difficult to estimate. Although they dabble in everything, their specialty is smuggling and piracy, and many pirates on the clear blue waters of the Mezzovian are sailing with debts owed to the Fuzeta da Ponte family, which they ensure they use as leverage to take a cut.
- Kaz’s Crew. Kazimir Lagebøter’s ancestors were from the north, as a casual glance at his name suggests. However, his family has lived in Porto Liure for generations. Seen by many as a newcomer, and therefore with some disdain, Kazimir’s success derives from his reputation for potent, dangerous, and cursed witchery, which he learned from an old vampire hag he took as a lover while traveling in Tarush Noptii. At least, so say the rumors. Regardless, his rise has been meteoric, and his crew have an almost unnatural, offputting mien to them. Few can say to have directly witnessed any action of witchcraft, but everyone whispers about it nonetheless.